CWS Championship Series: Game 1
Y’all. If the Gamecocks keep playing like this, I’m going to have to find myself an excellent cardiologist. I had gone out to watch the game, and in the 10th inning, I asked our waitress if it was possible to order blood pressure medicine from the bar. Unfortunately she said no. But lord, did I think I would need it. I think everyone knew that it would be a tough game. I don’t think anyone expected it to be as intense as it was. I’ve been an avid baseball fan for as long as I can remember, but last night was one of the best baseball games I have ever seen, at any level.
Hudson Randall took the mound for the Gators, and he was outstanding. He only gave up 3 hits in 7.2 innings of work. He struck out 6. He made the Gamecocks look bad, as they chased balls out of the strike zone and struggled to make contact with curveballs. Randall’s team gave him the lead in the 3rd, and it looked for awhile that that’s how it was going to stay. And then he walked Peter Mooney to start the 8th. Robert Beary bunted him to 2nd, and Evan Marzilli moved him to 3rd with a sacrifice fly. With two outs and a runner on 3rd, with a dire need to score a run, Scott Wingo came up to the plate. Wingo hadn’t been able to pick up on Randall’s off-speed stuff all night, and Randall got a little, pardon the pun, cocky. Randall threw the curve again, but this time Wingo was able to hit in up the middle, scoring Mooney, and tying the game. It was at this point that my Facebook and Twitter started to mention things about how awesome Wingo is. But they were only getting started.
Florida came to the plate in the 9th inning, ready to get a walk off hit and take Game 1 out of the Gamecocks hands. John Taylor walked the the leadoff man, then gave up a single. He then intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases and set up a force all around. The bases were loaded, the winning run was 90 feet away, and there weren’t any outs. It was at this point that I started pacing around the bar. And then a ground ball was hit to Wingo, who scooped it up and fired it home to Beary to keep the run from scoring. Still loaded, 1 out. I was still pacing, barely breathing, and hoping that my heart didn’t explode. Somehow, Taylor got another ground ball. To Wingo. Who again, fired to Beary to get the lead runner. Beary in turn threw to 1st to get the double play. And the bar went nuts. We were screaming and jumping up and down and screaming “GAME!” “COCKS!” at the top of our lungs. It was at this point that my FB and Twitter really blew up, mostly with people, men and women alike, volunteering to bear Wingo’s children. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t one of them. But there was still some heart-stopping baseball left to play. 10th inning. Nothing doing for the Gamecocks. Gators come up to bat. Taylor gave up a leadoff single, and the runner was then bunted to 2nd. Another intentional walk to set up the force play. 1 out. SEC player of the year, Mike Zunino, stepped into the batter’s box. Zunino has been in a slump, and Carolina was playing the righty-righty matchup. and then Zunino decided to come out of his slump. He singled into left field, and the Gamecock fans were sure that the game was over. But Jake Williams, never really known for his arm, scooped up the ball and fired a strike to Robert Beary to nail the runner at the plate. Carolina got the last out, and then headed to bat in the 11th.
Christian Walker and his fractured hamate (that’s a bone in the hand, just FYI) singled to lead off the 11th inning. Adam Matthews, who had come in earlier to pinch run, came to the plate, probably under instructions to do whatever was necessary to move Walker to 2nd. In what looked like a failed hit-and-run, Walker stole 2nd. He was safe, as Zunino’s throw sailed into center field. Walker scrambled for third, and would have been out, if the throw from CF hadn’t been off line. Instead, the throw ended up in the 3rd baseline stands, and Walker ended up scoring what would turn out to be the winning run. The Gamecocks didn’t do anything else in the 11th, but they were finally on top, 2-1. All they needed were 3 outs, and Game 1 would belong to them. Normally, this situation means that it’s Matt Price time. But after throwing 95 pitches on Friday night, not a single person, including Coach Tanner, thought that Price would be available. That was incorrect. Matt Price told Tanner that he had an inning in him, and he sauntered out from the bullpen to take the hill in the 11th. For real. He then proceeded to throw in the 94-96 mph range. Price got the outs he needed, and Carolina pulled out an amazing come-from-behind victory. Final Score: South Carolina 2, Florida 1 (11 innings).
A few random observations: Christian Walker. Walker wasn’t supposed to play. He has a broken bone in his hand (similar to JBJ’s injury at the start of the 2010 season). He was inserted into the lineup about 30 minutes before game time, after being cleared by doctors and smashing 5 home runs during batting practice. He then doubled down the right field line in his first at bat. And hit a single in the 11th, slid head first into second, and then scored the winning run. Bad.Ass.
Scott Wingo. I’ve told you before how much I adore this guy. He’d struggled at the plate throughout the game, but came up big when we needed it. His tremendous defense kept us in the game. His leadership is invaluable. He’s just one of those players who is fun to watch.
Jake Williams. Just another instance where this team does something so out of the ordinary to hang in there. Williams, while a solid outfielder, is mostly known for his skills at the plate. Last night, he plucked that ball of the ground in left and didn’t hesitate. He fired a beautiful throw to the plate to nail the runner and keep the game tied. I’m impressed.
Matt Price. Are we sure that Matt Price is human? Because there is absolutely no way that he should have been able to pitch last night. After his performance on Friday, his arm should have been about to fall off. Wow.
Forrest Koumas. What an incredible starting effort by a freshman pitcher in an overwhelming situation. Koumas pitched 5.2 innings, and gave up one unearned run. He wasn’t overly dominant, but he was solid. And he made the SEC player of the year look bad a couple of times.
Game 2 is tonight at 8 p.m. You can watch the game for free at the Colonial Life Arena. Doors open at 7 p.m. As for me, I’ll be pacing around a friend’s living room, trying not to wear holes in the carpet. Roth will be on the mound for Carolina. It’ll be all hands on deck, as the Gamecocks try to set an NCAA record 16 consecutive tournament wins, and 11 consecutive CWS wins. Florida isn’t going to go down quietly. But apparently, neither will these Gamecocks.